Doors can be dull and functional – or they can be inspiring and beautifully ornate. This collection of 20 doors, most of which date from the famous Art Nouveau period that was particularly popular between 1890 and 1910, certainly fall into the latter camp. More than a century later, these examples serve as brilliant snapshots of a glorious age in art and design. Although Art Nouveau objects were abundant at the beginning of the last century, the movement was disrupted by World War I. As we’ll see, however, it left behind a legacy still visible in many of today’s cities around the world.
This teal-color door, found at the Gaia Hostel in Budapest, is a glorious throwback to the Art Nouveau era. Craftsmen clearly labored with love over this piece, and now backpackers in the city can admire the artisans’ skilled handiwork.
The addition of stained glass and some intricate iron detailing adds a slightly gothic feel to the ensemble at number six. Resembling a giant letter “P,” this faded green door belonging to a building in Brussels is like something out of a fairytale. But Grimm it most certainly isn’t.
The ornate decoration in the stonework surrounding this district court’s door in Berlin is quite a sight to behold. The court was built over a period of five years, from 1901 to 1906, under the direction of architect Rudolf Mönnich. Straight-sided windows were inserted into the door itself, but it is the intricacy of the surround that really draws the eye.
This fine specimen is in Barcelona, and the ironwork is simply stunning. The photographer has also captured him or herself in the reflection, and as one commenter put it, the snapper clearly has “an eye for intricate design.”
This gorgeous French door contains outdoor elements, with blue branches reaching out in the direction of the hinges. The name of the architect Emile André is carved into the stone surround, suggesting perhaps that he was proud of this 1903 project. This is one of many examples of André’s work in the city of Nancy in France.
Watts Chapel is named after Mary Watts and is a fine example of the work of the Indian-born artist. Encircled by a cemetery, the idea was for the entrance to unite artistry and the environment with a place in which to remember loved ones. Nowadays, the congregation can still appreciate the vibrant colors of the bricks, contrasted with the more subtle blue of the door itself.
This striking gateway is located in Riga, the capital of Latvia. The city is known for its culture and dazzling architectural forms, but we imagine this specimen more than holds its own against its more showy neighbors. The door itself is forgettable, but the face and wings above certainly draw the eye.
This store entryway in Cambridge, Massachusetts, would beckon in even the most reluctant shopper. Despite being closed to the public at the time of this picture, the inviting wooden door in Harvard Square is sure to see its fair share of visitors.
It might resemble a doorway from some religious sect from the future, but walking through this imposing feature would actually just gain you entry to a home in Vienna. The cherry-wood-color door nicely offsets the blue tiles and the gold detail. This place is currently giving us some serious accommodation envy.
It seems even the plants sprouting from the wall want to get closer to this dreamy door in Sydney. Though on first glance the entrance appears rather banal, the beautiful sheen of the paint on the door, striking latticework and understated handle all combine to great effect.
10. Czech Republic
The sepia tones in this photo only serve to highlight the eerie feel of the portal. The two women surrounding the door appear to be in conversation with each other – and it is left to us to only imagine their dialogue. Located in Prague, this was at one time the entrance to the living quarters of the painter Karel Vitezslav Masek, which seems appropriate given the artistic touches on display. Masek’s most famous painting is of Libuse, a prophetess, whom he casts as a ghostly individual. Perhaps, then, he felt at home with the otherworldly figures above his door.
The curves within this Lebanese gateway have presumably been made possible thanks to the malleable nature of the wrought iron used. The gate is an exemplary bit of metallurgy – the sublime curly shadows it casts are truly captivating. As to where the gate leads, well, that’s anyone’s guess; the doors are ajar, but they give little clue as to what lies on the other side.
This Sardinian church door is like the lovechild of a beach hut and a cave. And to make it even more special, it looks as though you need a password to enter! The bricks above, the paving below and the columns either side all serve to frame the glorious blue portal in the middle, with its delicate engraving that is just visible in the photo.
The Glasgow School of Art has established its place in the history books as one of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s finest masterpieces, but in recent years it has also become famous for another reason after a pair of fires broke out at the premises. The first, in 2014, and the other, four years later in 2018, damaged much of the building and its contents. Whether this sweeping entranceway was affected by the most recent fire is unknown.
While the double doors in the middle of this entrance mirror each other in perfect symmetry, the use of the same handle on the ornate door to the left helps to draw it in. The result is a pleasing ensemble, and one that we hope is complemented by a fourth door to the right. This example of street art in St. Petersburg is a reminder that, if you keep your eyes peeled, you can spot creative flair anywhere.
This door hails from Helsinki and could be a portal right into The Lord of the Rings. The flowers, the stained glass windows and the swirling, tentacle-like iron all come together to create something straight from a fantasy world. Apparently, Finland was in part an inspiration for Middle Earth, and looking at this door we can see why…
4. New Zealand
The marvellous blue and white facade of Napier’s Provincial Hotel looks like something from a Wes Anderson film set. The building actually rose from the rubble of an earthquake that struck the North Island coastal city on February 3, 1931. Locals took advantage of the fresh start the disaster afforded the area and looked to the Spanish- and Art Deco-influenced buildings of California to erect a new city in the same style. When compared to the grandeur of what surrounds them, the hotel doors themselves seem rather insignificant.
This movie theater in Bogota features exposed red bricks and a series of ornamental rosettes around its entrance. In 2007 the exterior was restored to its former glory and now two carved faces smile down on all those movie fans who enter. No wonder they don’t want you to park outside this iconic landmark.
This walkway and building in Szczecin are redolent of the turn-of-the-century art movement. The carved wooden doors on the right, the elegant frames lining the walls of the hallway and the light fixtures hanging from the ceiling all scream Art Nouveau.
While this Portuguese doorway leads out onto a courtyard surrounded by other buildings, the design harks back to nature; the curves have been worked into the shape of a bulb or petal. Indeed, a typical feature of Art Nouveau style is its depiction of nature and foliage.